Organic soil has a 26 percent higher potential for long-term carbon storage than soil from conventional farms, finds new research.
The study, which is a cooperative effort from Northeastern University and nonprofit research organization The Organic Center, compared soil samples from over 700 conventional farms in 48 states and 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and found that organic samples, on average, contained 13 percent higher soil organic matter and 44 percent more humic acid.
Humic acid is one of several humic substances which, Civil Eats reports, are “a major component of healthy, fertile soil, giving it structure and water-holding ability.” They are built up over a number of years by living materials present in the soil, including manure. Often, researchers found, the conventional samples analyzed for the study contained no humic substances whatsoever.
“No one has ever compared this many organic and conventional soil samples before, or looked at these subsets of total organic matter,” Michel Cavigelli, a soil scientist at the USDA who was not involved with the study, told Civil Eats.
Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, noted that the fact that the study examined these substances gives "a much more accurate and precise view of the stable, long-term storage of carbon in the soils.”
“Our study compares soils from the real world, and its findings can have a huge impact on the real world,” Shade said in a news release. “These results highlight the potential of organic agriculture to increase the amount of carbon sequestration in the soil, and by doing so, help decrease a major cause of climate change.”
The full study will be published next month in Advances in Agronomy.
Carbon sequestering has been shown to be an important contributing factor in the mitigation of the worst impacts of climate change, by keeping excess carbon out of the atmosphere. This has been shown in a number of studies and was highlighted in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report of 2007.
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